14: Where do you publish results?
Publication and peer review are integral parts of the scientific method, and this chapter examines different ways that research findings can be disseminated. The chapter outlines how to write policy briefs, and how to adapt them to a study proposal, how to write an op-ed for a newspaper, and how to write for professional publications. The chapter also outlines some thoughts on preparing presentations, as well as engaging with other publication mediums such as Twitter threads and blogs. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the challenge of conveying scientific results clearly.
Glossary terms in this chapter
Policy brief: A policy brief is a concise document that is designed to inform and advise a specific but generally non-technical audience about an issue.
Implication: An implication suggests how a research finding may be important for policy, practice, or theory.
Recommendation: A recommendation is a specific action from the research that should be taken regarding a policy or practice.
Twitter thread: A series of multiple tweets that are linked, related, and tell a longer more detailed story than is possible in the standard 280-character single tweet.
Additional information and links
As researcher John Shjarback has written, "Public criminology" is the practice of scholars reaching out beyond academic circles and disseminating their research/findings to broader audiences, such as criminal justice practitioners, journalists, and the general public. While I normally shy away from Wikipedia, this page does cover a simple overview of public criminology as well as the criticisms and critiques it has attracted.
There are numerous webpages that outline how to write policy briefs. It is a common type of document in government circles, after all. Therefore, rather than reinvent the wheel here are links to some of them. For example, this webpage at the writing center of the University of North Carolina has an overview that is targeted to students and includes examples of strong and weak paragraphs. This page at policybriefs.org has a briefer overview and links to various example policy briefs. Finally, this Norwegian research institute has a brief but well-written guide and links to a Word document template that provides the basics.
Op-eds get the attention of the public
As with the policy briefs, I link here to sites that have short writing summaries. First, the Harvard Kennedy School has a three-page summary covering op-ed writing. Given they are one of the target audiences, one of the best sources for you might be the page on how to write an op-ed from The Washington Post. Finally, this page discusses techniques for the process of writing itself, including finding the right voice.
Examples from the book include:
Community Policing Dispatch from the COPS office
The Australia and New Zealand Police Advisory Agency (ANZPAA), Policing Innovator, is only available to police employees of Australian police organizations. If you are one, apply here.
Police Chief Magazine from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
In a later section, I also mention the National Policing Institute’s OnPolicing blog.
As policing scholar Peter Moskos has written here, "If you want to be recognized as an educated person, it helps to write like one. Academic writing is different from personal, motivational or literary writing. Social science writing style is impersonal, plain, and precise." Peter has an extensive web page that outlines good writing, which is also available as a pdf. Though I recommend you reward the author by purchasing the guide as a book if you find it useful.
On my personal website, I have written about the need for academics to raise the standard of their presentations. I also have a blog post with ten basic tips to improve your PowerPoint presentations.
Related Reducing Crime podcast episode
One aspect of the scientific method that is sometimes ignored, is the need to publish research findings in ways that can help practitioners improve their practice. Focusing on that aspect, this episode features Superintendent Katy Barrow-Grint, who has pioneered an academic journal within a police service.
Katy Barrow-Grint (#36)
Katy Barrow-Grint is a Superintendent with the UK's Thames Valley Police. She is currently the Head of Specialist Operations for Thames Valley, running covert policing for the force. We talk about her research on domestic abuse, her work developing an internal evidence-based policing journal, becoming the inaugural Editor in Chief of the College of Policing Publication ‘Going Equipped’, and being a lead on #WeCops, a popular UK policing weekly twitter debate forum.